Sunday, May 28, 2006

In Loving Memory Of

There were a few people that I would love to pay tribute to on this memorial day weekend, but I don't want to bore you with family history. I also don't want to do anything silly. So I am going to write something that has been building on me for years.


So for a minute, since that is all I have, I want to talk about the woman who gave birth to my father.

I didn't grow up with a grandmother. I had a step grandmother who was one of the nicest people in the world. But she also was a step grandma, and when my grandpa died, when I was 12, she sort of blended into the background. My real grandma, my mom's mom, she died a while before I was born, so I never did meet her.

So how can I pay tribute to a grandmother that I never knew? Well my dad was raised by his grandparents, and I of course never me them either. That is one of the things about being the last born. Everybody's dead by the time you get there. But there was this one woman who made an appearance in my life when I was 16 years old. My grandmother Illa.

Now Illa had lived a very colorful life. The stories abound that she was a barmaid, that she liked her alcohol, and that she lived a very fast life. When I met her, she seemed old. Really old, like the old that comes from living too much. She smoked non stop, and she was about 300 pounds. She was a feisty one too, with not much by the way of answers on why, how, and who. Ornery, stinky. And who was left a lone grandchild in the house with her, yes, that would be me. She came to visit us from California. She stayed for a week or so (and never took a shower or bath the entire trip) She sat on the back deck smoking cigarettes, talking to my dad. Who shuttled her here and there and everywhere. Who talked to her, helped her, served her. Why on earth would he do that for someone so mean and abusive. Stories about what she did to my uncle and aunt. Stories of how she lived her life. One cannot comprehend what my dad felt in the presence of someone so...Repulsive.

so how did that taste? Not so good. Honestly I didn't think that was still in me. I though the years had softened my heart, and that she would just be a memory. So why all the anger from me?

She abandoned my dad. She left him. But that isn't all. She gave up his brother for adoption. But that really isn't it. She contacted my dad one day. Out of the blue. He got to know her again. Sent her flowers and Christmas gifts. He talked to her. He found his half brother. Things were looking up. I was going to have a grandma at last. After a lifetime of having no one to call grandma, and suddenly here was one. And she was legit. She birthed my dad. So she came to stay with us. She gave us no answers on who my grandfather was. Or anything. She let us get to know her. She talked to us. She connected us to family history. And then you know what she did? She took it all back and never talked to us again. She silenced her communication forever. She had sent me a baby blanket and asked me to come and visit her for a couple of weeks, but she being a stranger to me, having only met her once, I declined. Well I guess that pissed her off. She sent nothing. She took her love back.

Illa was buried in the summertime. My dad went to her burial, as well as some missionaries who were helping out. Her daughter didn't even put on a clean pair of jeans. That is what this woman got in the end. A memorial which no one knows about, or probably nobody cares about. And it is how she lived her life. With no respect to the world around here. Eat drink and be merry for tomorrow we die. Well tomorrow came for illa, and not one damn person could care.

So I honor you Illa. For you showed me what family is all about. You showed me what true family means. It doesn't matter who birthed you. Or who raised you. You showed me that kindness and living honorably is the best way, and that when you die, if you daughter doesn't even care to clean her clothes, then that is the way you must have lived your life. I don't want to be you. I love my family dearly, deeply and more than anything in this world. I would never dream of giving up any of my children to live more "independantly". I never want to know what it is like to have grandchildren who don't know my name. Or even that I don't know them.


Stacy said...

Wow! What a positive to take awway from such a negative experience. Good lessons learned!

Pamela said...

I enjoyed your post!! Family is more then blood

Anonymous said...

WOW!! Being adopted I totally relate to the "it doesn't matter who birthed you vs. who raised you and taught you things in life.
And you surely took away such a great POV instead of wallowing in the negative